Thursday, November 29, 2018

Shoeing the hooves

Last year, I spotted these pink boots at the thrift store for $3.70 (after a 50% discount). It was love at first sight. I could not believe no one else wanted such gems of footwear, at such a low price! I snapped them up, and soon learned why no one else wanted them.

The fabric on the outside was separating from the structure on the inside, and in some places, the upper was crushed, resulting in a lumpy bumpy exterior. Age-related problems aside, there was also the fact that the shoes themselves simply weren't flattering. They were just too pink! Every surface on them, even down to the laces, was the same shade of it. From ankle to heel to toe, they presented an unbroken mass of the gaudy color. When I was wearing them, I felt like my feet had morphed into giant magenta hooves.

What made these boots so ugly while other boots pass unremarked? I think it was the complete lack of distinction between the upper and the sole. I've never been a fan of the hidden platform. It's what makes your "toes look 4 inches thick" in platform pumps, as I complained back in 2016. When you can't tell the difference between the part of the shoe surrounding the foot, and the part that's holding it off the ground, they all just merge together to make your foot appear to be gigantic! On the other hand, when the sole (or platform) is visually separated from the rest of the shoe, then you achieve a more pleasing effect that hearkens to the dainty humanity of the foot within.
Cute wedge boot with just enough pink.
Whoa, way too much pink!

So what these boots clearly needed was visual separation of the upper and lower halves.

How to do it? Well, it took an entire summer of the shoes sitting on top of my bookcase before I committed to a solution—I would paint the wedge.

But before I got into that artsy part of the project, I had to do something about the deteriorated condition of the uppers.

The collapsing portion was easy enough to fix—it just needed to be reshaped, which I did by stuffing it with newspaper and letting it sit for a few weeks. While that was happening, I set to fixing the loosened fabric covering.

Fortunately, the rubber soles were already starting to peel away, so I just levered them a little farther with a screwdriver to get at the spot where the fabric was folded underneath. A little more peeling opened up the fabric far enough that I could stick the screwdriver between it and the stiffer portion of the shoe it covered.

I spread a little outdoor Mod Podge glue on a knife and smeared it around inside the fabric. Then I stuck the fabric back down and hoped for the best. In one place, the glue was too heavy and showed through the other side. I cursed myself for my clumsiness, but it was too late to go back! I just hoped it wouldn't be too obvious when finished.

Now for the exciting part: the new paint job! For this, I decided against anything too crazy or colorful, because – while that makes for a fun shoe – the more colors on an accessory, the fewer outfits it will go with. And I wanted these to serve as all-purpose boots that I could bust out whenever I needed a pink shoe. So that meant I'd have to use a single color of paint that was either a shade or two lighter or darker than the rest of the shoe. Ultimately I decided to go darker, because that would be more grounding (appropriate for the heel of a shoe!) and would probably appear more neutral, thus more likely to complement my clothing.

As for the pattern, I used my "Art Nouveau" sandals as inspiration. I wanted something that seemed light and airy, as though a breeze could pass between the painted areas. I wanted to do a sort of damask floral theme, but my painting skills aren't quite that refined, so I settled on a simpler design of organic curlicues.

I drew the rough sketch onto the shoes with a sliver of soap. I have never before used soap as a fashion marking tool, but I decided to try it for this project because I knew it would wash right out, while I didn't have the same confidence in my black tailor's chalk. It worked like a dream!

I didn't have a real plan—just a few principles to guide me: 1) to follow the line of stitching from the top of the heel to the midpoint of the upper 2) to cover the shape of the wedge as much as possible with a balanced collection of vining curlicues. 3) To fill the gaps where the curlicues left too much white space with little half-asterisks (or daisies, if you prefer).

Once I had a design sketched out on one shoe, I was fairly certain that this was going to work out, and it was time to get some paint! I actually went to the craft store and bought supplies for this project, which is something I rarely do. I paid a whopping 70 cents for a jar of "cherry cobbler" colored acrylic craft paint. I had been hoping for a dark burgundy, but this was the best I could find. I mixed it with a little of my black paint to achieve the darker hue. It still did not give me the burgundy I'd been desiring, but rather a very faintly pink-tinged brown. Well enough would have to do—I went ahead with the painting.
Painting on flocked fabric was more challenging than I expected, as the paint didn't really go on evenly. I had to do a "rough" coat, and then fill in the gaps with a watered-down mixture of the same paint to get smooth edges. I should have taken pictures of this part, but it did not occur to me!

After one side of one shoe was done, I had the challenge of trying to mirror the design exactly on the other shoe. Whereas the first sketch had basically been a free-flowing exercise in creativity, I now had to be precise and match up the lines' positions accurately. It went OK.

I repeated the sketching and painting process for each side of each shoe (with time for drying in between!)

My original vision had called for another asterisk to fill the space at the back of the heel, but that space ended up being bigger than I expected. Instead, I decided to mix things up and finish the heel with a heart-shaped design, and I'm glad I did! It adds a subtle something extra that you might not notice at first glance—a reward for the observant, as I like to call it!

My final steps were to reattach the soles with E-6000 glue and remove the remains of the soap sketches with water and a gentle scrub brush.

Although the first outfit I wore with these boots wasn't really anything special (that's kind of the point—not to detract any attention from the shoes!), I decided, at the last moment, to wear lace-trimmed socks (rather than my first choice of no-show socks), and I'm pleased with the effect! They add a little touch of the baroque, which is right in line with the style of the shoes' artwork.

Unfortunately, after a day of wearing the shoes, I have to say they didn't live up to my expectations. From a distance, the painted portion is hardly distinguishable from the rest, meaning my shoes still look like oversized hooves! And from up close, it is clear that my attempts at gluing down the fabric layer were unsuccessful. I still have some of the paint left, so maybe if I get motivated, I'll have another pass at the glue, and make the painting heavier while I'm at it.

No comments:

Post a Comment